Attempts to make rain are as old as mankind itself. Through rain dances, by asking God for help or by making offerings. In Abu Dhabi, there is another method of enforcing rain: Cloud seeding or cloud change. Chemicals or salt particles are fired into a cloud.
In the fight against drought and climate change, they have been researching cloud change in the UAE for some time. Thanks to large research budgets and international collaboration, they are now leading the region with their ambitious project at the Center for Meteorology (NCM) in Abu Dhabi.
Correspondent Daisy Mor visited the center in Abu Dhabi to go cloud shooting with pilot Ahmed Al Jaberi.
Hunting for rain in the desert: This is how cloud seeding works
The technique isn’t new, but it’s scientifically difficult to say how well it works. “You can’t do a controlled study,” says Hermann Rassenberg, professor of atmospheric research at TU Delft. “So who’s to say it wouldn’t have started raining without intervention?”
Pier Siebesma, associate professor at Delft, also says you shouldn’t overestimate the effect of the cloud shift. “Israel did it for years, but stopped because it wasn’t good enough.”
However, experts in Abu Dhabi have no doubts. “Recent research from us shows an increase in rainfall due to cloud change. 10 to 15 percent under normal conditions and 23 to 25 percent under optimal conditions,” said researcher Ahmad Kamali. This is a significant increase for a desert country in the Middle East.
Due to global warming, more and more countries are interested in techniques and technologies to control the weather a little. In Abu Dhabi, they are not the only ones working on cloud transformation. Dozens of countries are testing it, including China, Russia, India and the US. China is making progress in this regard. The country wants to have a full-fledged system that seriously affects the weather by 2025.
In many cases, forcing rains has already led to fights between neighboring countries. One accuses the other of stealing the rain. It was between Iran and Israel, India and China are debating it, and Saudi Arabia and Oman are not happy with the Emirates.
Because if Abu Dhabi shifts the overcast clouds and starts raining, its neighbors will have nothing left. “It’s a fair criticism,” Professor Russenberg said. “That rain only falls once, so if you manipulate that cloud so that it rains on your territory before the clouds reach the neighboring countries, you are stealing the rain.”
In Abu Dhabi, they were unimpressed by the criticism. There they believe that rain cannot be stolen. “You don’t steal someone’s clouds, so you don’t steal the rain, you can’t do that,” Kamali said.
Geo or Climate Engineering
In the future, more changes can be made to the weather and climate. We talk about geoengineering or climate engineering. By doing so you are modifying the Earth’s natural systems to combat global warming. “It goes further than rain,” explains Professor Siebesma. “By doing this you cool the Earth on a global scale, for example, by blocking or reflecting sunlight.”
But there are many drawbacks. “To begin with, good international research on these methods needs to be done first,” cautions Siebesma. “We don’t know what the effect will be on Earth. In terms of rainfall, drought, wind flow and long-term temperature. But people want to start using it, so we need to investigate what the effects are.”
First the rain
Abu Dhabi is their first focus Cloud seeding And they are committed to continuing. They have little doubt that this will ultimately have a positive effect on the region. Pilot Ahmad Al Jaberi: “We don’t expect immediate results. This is an important project for the future, the next fifty to one hundred years. We can already reap the benefits, but I’m mainly thinking about my future. Children and their grandchildren. I hope for a greener territory for the next generation.”
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